blog, fear

Latent Lollygagger: Stuck in a Balloon

I’m feeling a bit stuck these days.

Like I’m floating in a balloon, and I keep pushing against the edges, and they move a little bit, but then seem to bounce back into their original place, and nothing’s really changed.

Sometimes, this happens in one facet of my life. Lately, it seems to be happening in all of them.

And so I wonder, am I pushing hard enough to make a true difference? But – if I push too hard, the balloon will break, and that balloon defines the edges of my comfort zone, where I can safely exist.

Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

On one hand, maybe bursting that balloon would seem like a good thing: let go of all boundaries! Don’t let anything hold you back!

On the other, I can do things in that balloon without worrying where the edges are: the status quo, the comfortable, the same-old.

It’s balancing feeling protected with feeling restricted.

The edges of the balloon are feedback—where to push in order to grow in a way that’s productive and sustainable. Those edges grow with self-awareness, doing scary stuff, being vulnerable, learning new things.

Usually.

So, if I’m doing those things, why aren’t my edges moving?

For example (before this metaphor gets out of hand):

It has been months since I have been able to wake up at 5am to spend my morning as a writer. I want to push at the edge, to work on my novel, to create new stories, to dedicate a portion of my life to writing. I do sincerely want all of those things. And yet, I turn the 5am alarm off, I snooze the 6am alarm until 6:30, I have 20 minutes instead of 2 hours.

Am I tired? Hibernating already in the fog? I know I’m not naturally an early bird, so is my biology finally catching up to my discipline? Or is there something else, something that keeps me tentative rather than firmly pushing against the edge? Fear of… what? Next steps, putting my work into the world, not knowing what I’m doing, what if I fail, what if I succeed?

It just seems so… hard. When the edge bounces back into place, it seems hard to keep pushing. But then I end up just spinning my wheels in the middle of the balloon, which is good for making myself feel productive but not so good for actually changing anything.

And then I was asked, in my online creative support group, what would be helpful for me. I wasn’t sure how to answer, because it seems so much more than just “waking up when the alarm goes off.” Will accountability be enough—for me to know I will post next week about how I’ve found time again?

Or am I measuring the wrong thing? Maybe my edge is moving, and getting up at 5am to write isn’t the thing that will push it anymore. Maybe there’s something else—maybe removing some of the unknown that lies ahead in the process of creating a novel (editors, agents, publishing, oh my). Maybe now that I’ve established that writing is an important part of my life, it’s less about the brute force “spend time doing it” (although, that will always need to happen) and more about the “what” I’m doing with that time.

Maybe waking up at 5am is now my new edge, and I have to do something different to keep pushing farther. And it’s not the waking up part that’s the edge, but it’s the “spend time as a writer” part. So, okay, I’m doing that, and right now it looks kind of sporadic and not this romantic vision of just sitting down and putting words on the page. It’s editing, it’s websites, it’s networking. And sometimes it’s hard to know what’s a spinning-my-wheels activity and what’s pushing at that edge.

But usually, if I take a deep breath and am honest with myself, I can tell.

And then I can take another deep breath, tell myself it’s okay to be scared, and reach out, and give a little push.

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